CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s Bryan Gaul arrived in training camp with two goals: increase his playing time from his rookie season and simply improve.
He also came to camp with the knowledge he’s pretty much locked in as Todd Dunivant’s understudy at left back. Gaul actually was a talented scorer at Bradley University – he was second in the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring with 11 goals and 4 assists in his final year with the Braves – but he welcomed the move to the Galaxy’s back line.
“I wanted to do it,” he said after training Monday. “I was excited about it because you get the best of both worlds. You can do anything at left back. You can defend, you can go as far as you want in the attack.
“I think it’s a great position.”
The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder played in 19 games in all competitions last season, including four in the CONCACAF Champions League, one in the U.S. Open Cup and 14 during the regular season (with seven of them starts). He spelled Dunivant when he wasn’t available and even saw some time at center back, a position he admitted was difficult to play.
But it now it appears he’s being earmarked for the left side of the defense, and Gaul said he’s getting more and more comfortable. He attributed much of that smooth transition to Dunivant, now starting his 10th season in MLS and as savvy a veteran as they come.
“He’s helped me a lot,” Gaul said. “I came in as a midfielder/forward and it’s been different, like holding the line on defense. It’s all been new, especially from my college mentality and how we played there.
“Todd’s been a big help. He’s already taught me a lot of things about the position.”
Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena said Gaul actually might be asked to play three positions – left midfield, left back and center back – but it’s left back where they feel he can be the most effective.
“He’s a young player at these positions and we want to give him a little bit more consistent time at a position,” Arena said, “and the position we think he can help us a little more right now is left back.
“He’s shown improvement since last year, so that’s encouraging.”
Dunivant said he’s been impressed with Gaul’s feel for the game, despite his lack of time at left back and this being only his second year in MLS.
“He’s got good instincts,” Dunivant said. “It’s a position I think he keeps growing into. He has good instincts offensively and has continued to hone his defensive side, and you have to have both things.”
Dunivant said he and Gaul talk every day, whether it’s about a certain drill in training or general strategy.
“Every day there’s little comments afterwards,” Dunivant said. “We’re kind of in the same boat together and we’re always communicating and talking. Being in the Champions League like are we need to have a deep team, and he’s going to play a big part again this year.”
Gaul already has become well aware of one of the demands of left back.
“It’s a fitness position,” he said. “You go against quick attackers, and you have to deal with them the whole game. You not only want to beat them, but you also want to make them defend you.
“It’s great. I’m enjoying my time so far. I can’t wait to get to the games.”